Australian court rules cancer gene patent invalid
7 October 2015, Nirapad News: An Australian cancer survivor Wednesday triumphed in a landmark challenge against medical research companies, with the country’s top court ruling they could not patent a gene linked to breast
Yvonne D’Arcy took her case to the High Court of Australia, arguing that the so-called breast cancer gene BRCA1 — the mutation famously carried by Hollywood star Angelina Jolie — was a naturally occurring substance.
Breast cancer is the leading cancer killer of women aged 20-59 worldwide, and supporters of the case had argued that patenting a gene could stymie medical research and testing.
The court found in D’Arcy’s favour on the basis that while isolating the gene required human activity, that was not enough to classify it as a manufactured product and so make it patentable.
“While the invention claimed might be, in a formal sense, a product of human action, it was the existence of the information stored in the relevant sequences that was an essential element of the invention,” the judges said.
D’Arcy’s case was previously dismissed by Australia’s Federal Court, which ruled in favour of the two medical research companies that hold the patent — US-based Myriad Genetics and Melbourne-based Genetic Technologies Ltd.
But the High Court agreed to hear an appeal in February.
Cancer Voices Australia, which has said the case was vital to ensure that information about people’s genes and genetic make-up was freely available to researchers, said it was delighted with the outcome.
“Very happy with High Court decision. Our genes are not for patenting,” it tweeted.
Carriers of the BRCA1 mutation, in which the BRCA stands for BReast CAncer susceptibility, have a much higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer than those women without it.
Breast cancer claims some 458,000 lives every year, with around 1.38 million new cases recorded annually, according to the UN’s World Health Organization.